History Lessons

Body Of Water Beach Ease Summer

There’s a great discussion on today’s Spectator Podcast (and a linked article in this week’s Spectator) around Sahil Mahtani’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek idea that 25% more students with Norman family names go through Oxbridge than those with Anglo-Saxon names, which leads to the Norman descendants earning significantly more through their lives. He argues that if we are to follow the logic of reparations for past crimes and misdemeanours of colonialism, the Norman families should be taxed and money shared amongst the Anglo-Saxons.

In the podcast Sahil defends his position against that of Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, who argues that there is a definite causal link between the old days of colonialism and slavery, and, in particular, the demand for Haiti to repay exorbitant amounts of money to re-attain it’s independence in the early 1800s, which it only finished paying in 1947, and the high levels of poverty there today. She argues that there is a direct and tangible link, her observations being based on ‘compassion and logic and common sense’.

This is the sort of rational/logical thinking that I believe is inherently dodgy. How many decisions and actions have been made by many hundreds or even thousands of people in Haiti, that has got them to where they are now, some 72 years after the final payments had been cleared? We can never know that amount of detail, just superficial simplifications which will always have gaps (which our minds are very good at filling).

Now, I don’t know what the reasoning is for Nadine’s trail of thought and I’m certainly no expert on the history of Haiti, and it may be the provable that there is a direct link between the poverty we see today in Haiti and the fact that they were crippled with debt until 70 odd years ago. But with our old friend the Extended Order ever lurking, I don’t believe that it could ever be that simple to know the hearts and minds of everyone who has led Haiti in past 70 years and have apparently failed to get their people out of poverty.

It probably sounds a bit harsh of me to say all this, but I think there is a danger in looking at history and drawing logical conclusions based on the evidence found. I do like to read and listen to historical books and arguments, but I always wonder a) is this really the full picture (because unless you are superhuman, you could never really take in all the detail, even if you were able to ascertain it)? and b) what is the agenda (because there will always be one; whether the author intends it or not, their unconscious biases will come out)?

I did very much agree with Nadine that, instead of trying to put some figure on reparations, we should be more forward looking and, post-Brexit, look to re-establish and build the links with countries such as Haiti, to work with them to get them out of poverty in a positive way. I would hope that with the amount of money we spend on foreign aid, we are already doing something towards it, but building trade with these countries could bring all kinds of untold benefits we’ve yet to imagine for everyone involved.

Too late to change?

Time For A Change New Ways Letters

Interesting to see Tom Watson argue today for Labour to come out in full as the anti-Brexit party. My suspicions are that is is driven more by a fear of the ‘resurgent’ Lib Dems and recently quiet, but still potent Brexit party, rather than really trying to shore up the inconsistent stance Labour has taken on Brexit (although that does deal with that too). The combined Lib Dem/Brexit Party threat must be perceived as more potent than the fact that they might stand to lose a lot of voters of a leave variety.

On this weekend’s Coffee House Shots Podcast (and in the Spectator), Katy Balls was musing about a potential early general election, possibly in the autumn. Given that short time scale, it would make sense that Labour want to shore up their stance in the anti-Brexit direction to regain those they think they’ve lost in recent weeks to the parties that have a definite stance.

To me, Jeremy Corbyn’s somewhat indistinct stance on Brexit makes perfect sense. Brexit is not a strict political decision, you can vote left or right and leave or remain, depending on what is important to you. It looks like someone has got wind of something in the offing and decided that something has to be done sooner rather than later about the voters they had obviously lost to both the Lib Dems and Brexit Party, although to me it seems a little late for them to join to the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ movement.

If there is an autumn election, the feelings that drove people to move away from Labour (and the Conservatives for that matter) to one of the smaller, but definite stance, parties will still be fresh in people’s memories and I rather think that they may well be tempted to keep voting that way, no matter Tom Watson wants.

Late again

Mind The Gap London Underground

Several times in the past fortnight, my daily commute to London has been disrupted by signalling issues. It turns out that signalling is part of Network Rail’s jurisprudence, and it came of something of a surprise to me to find out today reading Martin Vender Weyer’s article in this week’s Spectator that Network Rail is in fact completely nationalised. It’s one shareholder a certain Mr Grayling.

The article lists several major cock-ups in recent years that fall to the calamitous Network Rail, not least the new, severely delayed, Crossrail project.

So for all of you left-leaning thinkers under the impression that nationalised businesses are the bees knees, I urge you to think again. Even if they are only as half as bad as Network Rail, the country will surely fall to pieces in very short order.

The Radical Centre

Rays Pattern Center Abstract

There’s a good interview with Rory Stewart on the Spectator’s Saturday Coffee House Shots podcast this week, where James Kirkuk quizzes Rory about various things. Funnily enough, the first thing they talk about is the ‘radical centre’ which is basically what I was expounding in yesterday’s post.

Rory discusses his ideas for a government that takes the best of left and right, very much echoing my points. He also goes on to describe how he proposes to get round the Brexit impasse by creating a citizen’s court, which I also think could be a good thing. James Kirkuk seemed less convinced by the idea, but as Rory says, if it doesn’t work, it’s only taking a few weeks out of the process and is a better idea than anyone else has come up with to break the stalemate within Parliament itself.

The one thing I’m not sold on is the term, ‘radical centre’, it sounds like a group that are only interested in the centre ground of politics. Kirkup also runs a think tank that calls itself the Radical Centre, and I agree a lot less with most of the things he tends to come out with (but I’m sure he’s a jolly nice chap).

To me, Rory’s (and my) political stance needs a brand, more than a ronseal title, something that is relatively meaningless, but people can assign values to. As I own Whuff.org (long story, read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Corey Doctorow to get some idea of where I got that name from), I’ve started to use that as my little playground for further exploring my political ideas. I’m not saying that whuff.org, or the Whuff Party, is the way forward, (phones tend to autocorrect it to whiff for a start), but something along those lines.